Wednesday, March 20



SERIOUS DISCUSSION: Liwan (centre) briefs his guests on The Borneo Post’s front page story yesterday which had reported on their plight at the former’s office at Bangunan Baitulmakmur in Kuching yesterday. Isah is seating on first left

Penans affected by Murum dam and state government fail to agree on terms of compensation

Isah Abang

KUCHING: Penans affected by the Murum HEP Dam who left their blockades to the construction site to negotiate with the state government the compensation for their displacement by the dam could not accept the terms offered after three hours of negotiation here yesterday.

This was revealed by Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagan who had led the Penans to meet with Deputy State Secretary Datu Ose Murang at Wisma Bapa Malaysia.

Before the meeting their spokesperson Isah Abang from Long Wat, in Murum, Belaga, reiterated that all her community wanted was for the government to keep its promises on their demands especially on the cash compensation.

“As agreed between our community and the government four years ago, the cash compensation of RM500,000 should remain and it should not be deducted for any other purposes. This is one of the reasons why we erected the blockade on Sept 26

“We were told that the cash compensation would be used for other purposes such as for building our houses, land for planting our crops and other expenditure which would exceed the RM500,000 and we would end up owing the government.

“If this is the case, we really feel cheated. If they insisted on this, then we would want the dam to be stopped and we want our land back as we would prefer to be as we were before.

“We do not want to be treated like this as if we (the Penans) are uneducated and ignorant,” stressed Isah.

On the other hand, she affirmed the commitment of her community to move to the resettlement areas if the authorities agreed to keep its promises.

However, Isah warned that her community would erect the blockade again and would meet up with the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to get his assistance.

“The government has the motto ‘People first, performance now”. So we would like him (the prime minister) to keep his promise to help us,” added Isah.

Isah and the 13 other Penan elders were in the state capital on the invitation of Liwan and they would be here for a couple of days.

They were representing the eight Penan villages affected by the dam of Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu, Long Malim, Long Peran, Long Jaik and one Kenyah-Badeng village at Long Umpa.

During the meeting the Penans insisted that they and the government had agreed on the terms of compensation before the dam was constructed four years ago.

Besides the RM500,000 cash compensation per family of all the 300 affected families they said the government also agreed to compensate RM4 million for the ‘Pemali’ (transgression) of their burial grounds for all the nine affected villages before they were transferred to the resettlement areas.

Other demands include: 25 hectares of land for each of the 300 families affected by the dam; 30,000 hectares of land to each of the nine villages; free housing including water and electricity per family; allowances for ketua kaum and JKKK members; royalty from the power generation from the HEP; education fund for their children; community development fund for their community and the right for land which are not flooded (islands created) by the dam.

“As I have stressed before this, the Penans are reasonable people and willing to negotiate. But if the negation fails then they will revert back and stage the blockade again,” Liwan told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

He added the negotiation would continue for the next two weeks in the search for a solution to the impasse.

It was reported that the Murum HEP dam is now 70 per cent completed. The dam would have a power generating capacity of 944 MW. It would be the second mega-dam project after the Bakum dam.

The dam is located about 70km upriver from Bakun HEP dam which has started transmitting power since August 6, last year. Works on the project commenced on October 1, 2008 and it is expected to be completed by end of 2013.